A season of celebration comes into sharp focus for the NRL’s two 20th anniversary clubs when the Vodafone Warriors face North Queensland in their seventh-round game at 1300SMILES Stadium on Saturday (5.30pm kick-off local time).
Both teams will head into the clash coming off victories, the Vodafone Warriors beating Wests Tigers 32-22 in Manu Vatuvei’s 200th game on Saturday night and the Cowboys impressing in their 30-12 dismantling of 2014 premiers the South Sydney Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium last night.
Vodafone Warriors head coach Andrew McFadden today named an unchanged squad for one of the competition’s most demanding road trips; it’s the seventh time in seven matches so far this season that the same starting forward pack has been selected.
The encounter provides another significant occasion in the run of memorable moments during this 20th anniversary season. It follows earlier celebrations of the club’s very first match against the Brisbane Broncos, Nathan Friend’s 200th game, Ben Henry’s 50th, Ryan Hoffman’s 250th appearance and Manu Vatuvei’s landmark 200th match last weekend when he also drew level with Nigel Vagana for the most tries (140) scored by a New Zealander in the competition.
The original Auckland Warriors and the Cowboys debuted in the competition within a day of each other, the Warriors losing to Brisbane 22-25 in Auckland on March 10, 1995, and North Queensland beaten 16-32 by the then-Sydney Bulldogs in Townsville the following day.
It was later in the season before they met for the first time on July 29, the Warriors winning 28-10 against a Cowboys side which had won just two of its first 17 games in the competition.
“This Saturday night marks another big moment for us and also for the Cowboys,” said McFadden.
“Of the four clubs introduced to the competition in 1995 we’re the two that are still here 20 years later so there’s plenty to celebrate and to remember.
“It’s a demanding trip going to Townsville, even more so this time with the Cowboys running into such good form over the last three rounds.”
The two clubs have forged close links since joining the old Winfield Cup with the now defunct South Queensland Crushers and the Western Reds.
Of the 199 players who have appeared for the Vodafone Warriors, 18 either joined the club from North Queensland or played in the NRL for the Cowboys after leaving. Among them is Micheal Luck who played 150 times for the Vodafone Warriors after 76 games for the Cowboys as well as Jacob Lillyman, who makes his 131st appearance for the Vodafone Warriors on Saturday night after 62 games for North Queensland. The other 16 players who have represented both clubs are Leeson Ah Mau, Kevin Campion, Jason Death, Paul Dezolt, Sione Faumuina, Nathan Fien, George Gatis, David Myles, Lee Oudenryn, Willie Poching, Steve Rapira, Grant Rovelli, Tyran Smith, Se’e Solomona, Whetu Taewa and Brent Tate.
While a total of 199 players have represented the Vodafone Warriors so far, the Cowboys have used 254 players; the Vodafone Warriors have won 232 of the 496 games they’ve played, the Cowboys had their 196th win in 495 starts last night; the Vodafone Warriors have been in two grand finals (2002 and 2011) and the Cowboys one (2005) while they have both played in seven finals campaigns.
In 33 matches between the two sides, the Vodafone Warriors have an 18-15 edge in wins although the Cowboys lead 10-5 in contests in Townsville. Their 16-20 loss to the Vodafone Warriors at 1300SMILES Stadium last year was their only home defeat of the season; it’s also the only time the Vodafone Warriors have won in nine matches there since their last win in 2002.
NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS v VODAFONE WARRIORS
1300SMILES Stadium, Townsville
5.30pm, Saturday, April 18
1 TUIMOALA LOLOHEA
2 JONATHAN WRIGHT
3 KONRAD HURRELL
4 SOLOMONE KATA
5 MANU VATUVEI
6 CHAD TOWNSEND
7 SHAUN JOHNSON
8 JACOB LILLYMAN
9 THOMAS LEULUAI
10 BEN MATULINO
11 BODENE THOMPSON
12 RYAN HOFFMAN
13 SIMON MANNERING (c)
14 NATHAN FRIEND
15 DOMINIQUE PEYROUX
16 SAM LISONE
17 ALBERT VETE
18 RAYMOND FAITALA-MARINER
HEAD COACH: ANDREW McFADDEN